Bobby Hutcherson: Spiral (1965/8) Blue Note/UA


 SelectionJasper (1965)


On Jasper: Freddie Hubbard (trumpet) Sam Rivers (tenor, soprano sax, bass clarinet, flute) Bobby Hutcherson (vibes, marimba) Andrew Hill (piano) Richard Davis (bass) Joe Chambers (drums)recorded  Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, April 3, 1965

Other tracks: Harold Land (tenor sax) Bobby Hutcherson (vibes) Stanley Cowell (piano) Reggie Johnson (bass) Joe Chambers (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, November 25, 1968

Bobby plays vibraphone and marimba here. There is a bewildering range of these percussion idiophones, including vibraphone (or vibraharp – the registered name of one manufacturer of vibraphones), the marimba, xylophone and glockenspiel. The last two feature octave displacement.The marimba is a non-transposing instrument with no octave displacement, unlike the xylophone which sounds one octave higher than written and the glockenspiel which sounds two octaves higher than written. So now you know.


Yo! Holy Vinyl Bonus Tracks! Jasper was recorded in 1965, in the same Englewood Cliffs session as Hutcherson’s superlative definitive Blue Note album Dialogue, but not included on that LP. The song first appeared courtesy of Liberty/United Jazz Classics LT series album in 1979. For this reason alone, Spiral is essential purchase, and cheap as chips compared with Dialogue.

Hutcherson performs as you would expect, great. The added excitement  is the presence of Freddie Hubbard, Andrew Hill and Sam Rivers. Sam Rivers is a “bad boy”, given to visceral shrieks and bombast on tenor, aggressive adventurous sorties, his Blue Notes are a must (Fuschia Swing Song) and his adoption of bass clarinet in this session is sheer delight, seriously bad noises, Dolphy looking on from above would approve. Hubbard’s burnished gold tone  became adventurous but kept everything grounded. Hill always adds an intellectual dimension to “piano accompaniment”, straying outside conventional melodic boundaries.

Other tracks on Spiral feature dream-team Richard Davis and Joe Chambers and – bubbling, off-centre melodies, a debt here and there to Out To Lunch, Hutcherson weaving cool metallic patterns against Stanley Cowell’s expansive percussive comping.

There is quite  a lot of excellent Hutcherson material on a number of these blue-label United Artists titles curated by Michael Cuscuna in the late ’70s. Medina also has a lot of interesting material , but Spiral is the essential one.


The minimal cost of these UA titles there is no reason not to grab all three. Whilst I have been quite critical of the audio quality of some of the LT series, I have to confess I have enjoyed listening to these recently. Anything recorded by Van Gelder has a good pedigree, difficult to mess up.

Vinyl: Liberty United LT 996 US

Recorded by but not mastered by Van Gelder, but still sounding good as anything from the Dialogue session should.

Collector’s Corner
The Jazz Classics LT series are a mixed bunch.  I have previously lamented the weak presentation of some of the Mobley recordings, though the Lee Morgan’s I found better than expected. Given the extraordinary quality of unreleased material found by Michael Cuscuna in the Blue Note vaults, it would be churlish to overlook them. They are fairly easily found, not expensive, and the Hutcherson Retrospective has encouraged me to revisit others on the shelf. There is some good listening in there.

Any other recommendations from the LT series welcomed, as always, have your say.

Postscript Sept 10, 2016

The 1979  US Blue Note CLASSIC (Liberty/United) LT series was released simultaneously in the UK with the same artwork, but dubbed The JAZZ FILE, catalogue numbers change from LT to LBR.


In my limited experience the British pressings are a poor relation of the American.  The US pressings will have been mastered from original Van Gelder tapes (Van Gelder recorded, mastered by UA engineers), whilst the Jazz File UK equivalents will be locally re-mastered from second generation copy tapes, which is not the best start in life.

9 thoughts on “Bobby Hutcherson: Spiral (1965/8) Blue Note/UA

  1. I love a few of these, of my absolute favourite has to be Grant Green’s Solid. Must have a look at what else I have.

  2. The early ones in the LT series were issued over here in the UK in the ‘Jazz File’ series around 78/79 – I remember picking up ‘Spiral’ in either Mole or HMV as a deletion. The later ones such as Hill’s ‘Dance With Death’ and Larry Young’s ‘Mother Ship’ didn’t come out in the UK I believe – I only ever saw them as LT series US imports and they were quite elusive for a long time. There were also Japanese King issues which were like hen’s teeth and which the likes of Mole stocked sporadically. Only when the ‘Conn’ CDs of these titles started coming out did you come across many of these later US LT titles in the second hand racks.

    I’ve got loads of these LT titles and this thread will encourage me to dig them out again and give them a bit of an overdue clean up !

  3. I’m not sure whether they are British. My SPIRAL certainly appears to be US made, but I think they were later budget reissues. SPIRAL is 1979, for instance.

    • The Jazz File series were the UK equivalent releases made around the same time, as far as I know.


      The artwork is the same but US LT editions had the advantage of access to original Blue note tapes. We Brits got copy tape as source and the results were not as good. I replaced my few Jazz File editions (LBR catalogue number) with US LT series. I recommend corrective action, it is not an expensive replacement and sonically more satisfying.

      • That’s right — the UK issues have LBR numbers, usually with the LT numbers in brackets underneath. I can’t compare sound quality on a like for like basis but the Jazz File titles are pressed on noticeably lighter vinyl. I’ll upgrade if I have the opportunity but as for many years now I have only bought from one dealer and have never bought a single record on eBay — I have bought around a dozen or so records on discogs but it isn’t a user friendly experience in my view — the chances of seeing ‘proper’ US versions are not good….

  4. If you want to listen to the music on this album without waiting for the vinyl to pop up at the right price, there is a digital download of both Medina & Spiral which is stonking value at under £7 for the pair, featuring some great Harold Land (but sadly minus “Jasper”, which will have to be found elsewhere) . For compleatists, Bobby Hutcherson also did a good Milt Jackson impression on the John Lewis and The New Jazz Quartet album “Slavic Smile” recorded November 1982 in N.Y. on RCA Jazz Line LP PL 45729.

  5. I’ve got this one in its slightly later incarnation on the Jazz File series. I think my Wayne Shorter ‘Etc’ is also a Jazz File issue, but my Andre Hill Dance With Death is one of the LT series. If I see LPs in either incarnation I tend to give them a try because they are reasonably cheap and I have never found the sound quality wanting in either variant – although I would rather have the earlier originals, if possible. Maybe I’ll give Hutch a spin next. Right now I’m listening to the great Lee Konitz’s MOTION trio record, surely one of the greatest sax trio recordings there is. Mine is an ugly looking Verve Select from the 70s with what must be one of the cheapest looking and most inept sleeves imaginable. But oddly enough it sounds bloody great – perhaps because the music is simply irresistible.

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